France is known for its epic contributions to food culture, raising mortal meals into near-immortal experiences. The mother sauces. The paramilitaristic kitchens, divided into specific, highly honed skill sets that play together to perfect a meal. Its cities are constellations of Michelin stars.
And yet the most essential restaurants to the French themselves are called “zincs,” humble, all-day places where real neighbors can do everyday things with a cup of coffee followed by a sandwich and a glass of wine and then steak frites and more wine. If the fine-dining halls are the after-dark attractions, requiring the uncomfortable shoes and the good credit card and the special occasion, zincs are where the French live and eat and drink every day.
That’s the concept of Zinqué from restaurateur Emmanuel Dossetti, a Marseille native who found himself in Venice and missing the stay-all-day bistros of the motherland. So he opened his first location in Venice in 2012. He wasn’t even a restaurateur (he had an MBA). Life plans and college debts or not, he became a restaurateur when the concept took off. Now he’s got four in L.A., and a new one in San Diego’s beating heart of the food scene, Little Italy.
Zinqué San Diego is a 3,000 square-footprint on the corner of Kettner and West Hawthorn Streets on the bottom floor of the AV8 mixed-use building, right by Supernatural Sandwiches. Almost all French zincs center around the bar—a boardroom table for the neighborhood, wet with wine and coffee—and this is no different. The room is warm and old-looking, with wooden tables, fireplace, wrought-iron windows and a covered street patio for watching the tight-pantsed and the touristed parade by.
Breakfast will start with breakfast sandwiches (egg, tomato, basil, aged Gruyere) and pastries (house-baked croissants), with La Colombe coffee (the famed Philly-based third-wave roasters, ethical and direct-trade to the tilt). Lunch is primarily sandwiches (tuna or French ham and swis or Camembert-arugula-green apple) and tartines (smoked salmon or Sicilian tuna nicoise, etc.) but also grass-fed burgers and steak frites and grilled fish and soups and salads and their beloved “Le Bowl” (brown rice, avocado, tomato, arugula, Comte cheese, cilantro, and sriracha).
Come afternoon as the feelings of accomplishment or overworked misery call for a drink, it’s craft cocktails and an extensive mostly French wine list focusing on organic bottles, with all the French cheeses and charcuterie. The kitchen starts cranking out whole grilled branzinos, moules frites, quiches and lasagnas and tartines. They import their bread from one of the most famous bakeries in the world, Poilane in Paris.
Zinqué’s soft opening is today. Be patient and kind as they work out the kinks. They’ll be open Sunday-Thursday (7AM to 12AM) and Friday and Saturday (7AM-2AM).
2101 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy. Lezinque.com.
Enough words. Enjoy the first photos of Little Italy’s new neighbor.